It’s May 1st and we are counting down to the closing of the museum next week. On May 7th we will be having a little farewell party to say goodbye to some of the volunteers and visitors we may not see again for some time. We’re hoping many people will come and visit us at the Pop-Up, but its undeniable that Barnstaple will be without a proper museum for the next year or so. I think it’s the first time since the museum opened in 1989 that we have been closed for more than a week.
I’ve been thinking back to when I first came to the museum. It must have been in October or November 1990 when I came for my interview for the new post of Assistant Curator (Documentation). It was a 3 1/2 year contract, on something like £7,000 a year (quite good in those days), and I was fresh out of university, having just completed my Masters degree in Museum Studies at Leicester. My dissertation was about representations of the Roman Army in museums and featured a great life size figure, from Biggar Museum, of a Roman soldier holding a severed British head, which I thought gave a better idea of occupation than the usual baths and villas view of the Romans. He’s probably not on display any more.
Anyway, the Romans weren’t going to help me much in North Devon, which at that time seemed to have been completely ignored by them. I drove down to Barnstaple in my pink 1968 Triumph Herald convertible for two days of interviews and tests. I was interviewed by Peter Boyd, the Museums Officer, who looked exactly like Charles Darwin (he later developed a career giving lectures about Darwin), plus Tom Barwise, head of car parks and many other things, and Rosemarie Pitts, the Arts Officer. Tom warned me that people who come to North Devon often never leave, and predicted that I might fall into that group. I’m beginning to realise now that he may have been right.
Of course, back in 1990 there was no internet, and almost no computers, so my knowledge of North Devon was very sketchy. Careers in museums were not as fashionable as they are now, so my group of graduates were lucky that there were some jobs around – but not enough that you could pick and choose! I had interviews in Luton, Devizes and Glasgow as well as here in Barnstaple, but I think it’s safe to say I got the right job. I wouldn’t swap this museum for any other.